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Radithor was a patent medicine that is a well-known example of radioactive quackery and specifically of overly broad and pseudoscientific application of the principle of radiation hormesis. It consisted of triple distilled water containing at a minimum 1 microcurie (37 kBq) each of the radium 226 and 228 isotopes.


Radithor was manufactured from 1918 to 1928 by the Bailey Radium Laboratories, Inc., of East Orange, New Jersey. The owner of the company and head of the laboratories was listed as Dr. William J. A. Bailey, a dropout from Harvard College,[1] who was not a medical doctor.[2] It was advertised as "A Cure for the Living Dead"[3] as well as "Perpetual Sunshine".

Eben Byers, a wealthy American socialite, athlete, industrialist and Yale College graduate, died from Radithor radium poisoning in 1932.[4]

The Wall Street Journal article describing the Byers incident was called "The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off".[5] Byers's death led to the strengthening of the Food and Drug Administration's powers and the demise of most radiation-based patent medicines.


  1. ^ "Medicine: Radium Drinks". Time. Apr 11, 1932. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  2. ^ Literary Digest, 16 April 1932
  3. ^ Radium Cures - museumofquackery.com
  4. ^ "Death Stirs Action on Radium 'Cures'. Trade Commission Speeds Its Inquiry. Health Department Checks Drug Wholesalers. Autopsy Shows Symptoms. Maker of "Radithor" Denies It Killed Byers, as Does Victim's Physician in Pittsburgh. Walker Uses Apparatus. Friends Alarmed to Find Mayor Has Been Drinking Radium-Charged Water for Last Six Months.". New York Times. April 2, 1932. Retrieved 2011-10-01. Federal and local agencies, as well as medical authorities in various parts of the country, were stirred to action yesterday as a result of the death of Eben M. Byers, wealthy Pittsburgh steel manufacturer and sportsman, who died here Wednesday at the Doctors' Hospital from causes attributed to radium poisoning resulting from the drinking of water containing radium in solution. ... 
  5. ^ http://www.case.edu/affil/MeMA/MCA/11-20/1991-Nov.pdf
  • Radithor (ca. 1918). 15 Sep. 2004. Oak Ridge Associated Universities. 12 Apr. 2005 [1].

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radithor — Please support Wikipedia.
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57 news items

Quality Digest
Tue, 05 May 2015 12:46:32 -0700

Perhaps the most gruesome example was associated with Radithor, the 1920s' equivalent of an energy shot, which consisted of triple-distilled water containing a small dose of radium. Ominously advertised as “a cure for the living dead,” Radithor's most ...


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Raw Story

Raw Story
Tue, 31 Mar 2015 03:07:30 -0700

Mike Huckabee, former Fox News talking head and possible presidential contender again, recently came under considerable fire for being the spokesman for a dubious “cure” for diabetes, a disease that affects 29 million Americans and is the seventh ...

The Atlantic

The Atlantic
Thu, 07 Mar 2013 10:06:04 -0800

One particular item called Radithor -- a portmanteau of radium and mesothorium, an isotope of radium, was discontinued in 1928. Called, "Liquid Sunshine," its most famous consumer died 4 years later after losing most of his jaw, similar to the ...

Next City

Next City
Thu, 02 Oct 2014 05:49:30 -0700

The harmful effects of high levels of radiation cause legitimate alarm, and the fact that the danger can't be seen serves to only amplify fears. But a onetime cultural curiosity — the early-20th-century belief that radium was something wondrous and ...


Thu, 19 Sep 2013 05:37:35 -0700

La storia del più celebre di questi, il Radithor, è stata ricordata recentemente da Marco Cattaneo su Le Scienze, e vale la pena raccontarla per le conseguenze che ha avuto, negli Stati Uniti e nel resto del mondo, sulla legislazione che regola l ...

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